I was blessed to be able to immigrate to Canada for my university studies at the age of 17 and to say the least, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. The downside to immigrating at such a young age is at the time I stupidly enough didn’t think it was such a big deal. Oh, how I wish I could go back and fix that mentality. University is so so important and not many people have the ability or means to reach such a high level of education. These are some of the lessons I have learned about what it means to be in university.
Every action has a reaction.
In high school, the actions we commit don’t have much of a consequence. It’s fairly easy to get away with many things when you’re a minor. However; one day you turn 18 and the switch flips out of nowhere. Now, your actions DO mean something. I’m not just talking about doing drugs or committing crimes, but also little things like choosing your major and dedicating time for your studies instead of partying. When I first went into university, I directly chose a science major thinking “science is hard so if I graduate there will for sure be a job waiting for me.” One year later I switched out and that was the best decision in my life. Just because a field is difficult or requires a lot of hard work and dedication doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get a job! I wish they would print that and plaster it on every highschool in the world. In university, your grades matter. Passing isn’t good enough anymore. If you want to get a job in the government or pursue a graduate degree, you better start dedicating the majority of your time to studying and school work.
University life is not like that of the movies.
I love 21 Jump Street and the likes of such awesome and funny movies. They seem so relaxed and in some movies professors call out on students by their names or ask them if they’re doing okay. This type of stuff is extremely rare in university (unless you attend class regularly and grew close to the professor). In university, you are considered an adult. You want to skip class and nap? Do it. You want to party all night then sleep in and miss your final? Do it. No one is stopping you from living the movie version of university life. No one is there to tell you to eat your veggies or clean your room or to stop talking to your friend in class. This also translates to no one is stopping you from destroying your life. This sort of leads to the first point. Total autonomy! If you were to follow the things that are done in university you will fail all your classes the first semester and most probably be put on probation then kicked out of your program by the end of your first year. For that not to happen, your expectations will be violated but it’s on you to manage those expectations and manage yourself.
In university, there will always be someone better than you.
We all know that one super-smart kid who always excelled in everything in high school. They were the teacher’s pet, everyone loved them, they consistently got the highest grades and the most awards, and got accepted to their dream schools. It might’ve been you even. In university, there is no such thing as “the top student”. First of all, all your classes are mixed; in one class you might be with all engineering students and the next class you might be with all science students. Your classes are constantly shifting so you’re competing against yourself. This is important for you to understand. The limiting factor in this equation is you (shout out to gen chem). It’s important to pull yourself up by comparing yourself with others. There will always be someone who has more experience than you, better grades than you, more connections than you, etc. Instead of feeling jealous or hurt by others who have more than you, I say get inspired! Make friends with those who have more connections, learn from those who have better grades, ask questions to those who have more experience. Don’t try to drag others down or isolate yourself, because that may not get you as far as it would if you just open yourself up to people. Also, be sure to be genuine! Don’t use people, offer them something in return.
Choosing one path doesn’t damn you to a lifetime of unhappiness
One thing I hear all the time in university is “I’ve spent too much money and time for me to switch out now”. That must be one of the saddest sentences ever! To avoid feeling like this you need to understand one concept. One simple concept. It’s not too late to switch out!! Now, switching out in your third or fourth year from engineering to business might not be the smartest choice ever, but if you’ve just finished your first year and realized your field is not your thing, switch out! I switched my major in my second year then added a completely unrelated minor in my third. Even if you’re in your third year and want to go in a different direction, you can finish then do your graduate studies in your field of interest (given you have the proper requirements). Also, you can choose to start your career in your preferred field even if you don’t have the degree for it. I am currently a science/psychology student but I work in HR. Don’t give up so easily. Give it your best shot and even if you don’t succeed 100%, at least you can say that you tried your best.